Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Revolutionary War - Hessian deserters

From: Cindy S. Drake
As a follow-up to
your information about ENEMY VIEWS: The American Revolutionary War as Recorded by the Hessian Participants, are there any books you are aware of about Hessian soldiers who deserted and stayed in America? I have not read this book, but the description of the book at the Heritage Books Bookstore gives the impression that these diaries are of soldiers who returned to Germany. My husband has a Hessian soldier ancestor who deserted, married, and lived the rest of his life in the United States.

Cindy S. Drake
Library Curator
Statewide Cemetery Registry Coordinator
Nebraska State Historical Society
1500 R Street, P.O. Box 82554
Lincoln, NE 68501-2554
To learn more about the histories we share visit

Ol’ Myrt here forwarded your email inquiry to Heritage Book publisher Craig Scott, CG who promptly provided these two suggestions, the second from his competitor’s offerings.
  • Brunswick Troops in North America, 1776-1783 by Charles Reuter. “These German soldiers fought for the British in the Revolution and many of them deserted near the end of the war, settling in Canada or indenturing themselves to Americans. Most were natives of the Duchy of Brunswick or from surrounding areas. Only a few came from the southern German states. Records are listed in alphabetical order by surname and include: place of birth, postal code of town or village, year of birth, regiment, battalion, unit, company, rank, and categories of presentation such as post-war experiences, desertion, injuries, casualties, capture by the enemy and others.” 1999, 8½x11, paper, 94 pp. Heritage Book Code: R1348. ISBN: 0788413481.
  • British and German Deserters, Dischargees, and Prisoners of War Who May Have Remained in Canada and the United States, 1774-1783. Part One and Part Two [and] Deserters and Disbanded Soldiers from British, German, and Loyalist Military Units in the South, 1782. 3 Parts in 1 by Clifford Neal Smith. “According to 18th-century immigration authority Clifford Neal Smith, the vast majority of German and English soldiers who, for one reason or another, became separated from their Revolutionary War units, ended up settling within a few miles of their discharge, desertion, or capture (POWs). Mr. Smith drew his conclusion from a careful examination of muster rolls from 1774 to 1783, as found in the Public Record Office in London. This consolidated work, which is based on those records, identifies several thousand soldiers who fall into this category. The records are arranged by regiment and thereunder alphabetically by surname. For each soldier, the author has transcribed his full name, status (deserter, dischargee, or prisoner of war), a date, and the source of the information. For the overwhelming majority of these individuals, these records may be the sole clue that links them from America to their European homeland.” 1988, 1989, reprinted 2006. Paper, 32 pp. Clearfield Code: CF9856. ISBN: 9780806352572.

Ol' Myrt's reading last night in ENEMY VIEWS: The American Revolutionary War as Recorded by the Hessian Participants included first-hand reports from several diarists of shooting deserters in Holland before the ships left for the new world – surprising. One officer reported his commander advised him to let the dissenters cool off and return to the main contingent on their own accord. Now I’m reading from several diarists describing the crossing of the Atlantic in a group of some 43 sailing ships. The Hessians are experiencing four days of severe storms causing some ships to collide, main masts to splinter, and a six-unit bunk bed to collapse. Sea sickness is no respecter of persons, as neither foot soldier nor officer can escape the affliction.

It would seem that EV would be great for background on the travel to America.

Ol’ Myrt is getting sea-sick just picturing this mess. A ten hour flight to Dusseldorf does me in.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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